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According to the Centers for Disease Control, suicide was the 10th leading cause of the death in the U.S. in 2009. That year there were 37,000 suicides, with one million reported attempted suicides. In the same year, suicide was the third leading cause of death for young people between the ages of 15 and 24. Depression can affect anyone - like Olympian Michael Phelps who recently disclosed he struggled with depression.
Suicide is a major health issue but it’s also a potentially preventable one. While there are several risk factors for suicide, any person who expresses suicidal thoughts or the intent to commit suicide should be taken seriously. Risk factors for suicide include:
Knowing and acting on the signs of suicide exhibited by others could save thousands of lives each year. If someone appears depressed and/or expresses suicidal thoughts, it's important to listen closely and take that person seriously. It's especially important to be concerned if someone exhibits any of these signs and has also attempted suicide in the past, as most successful suicides were preceded by one or more attempts.
Benjamin Shain, MD, PhD, Psychiatry at NorthShore, shares some of the warning signs of suicide and discusses what you can do to help a person who might be contemplating suicide:
What should you do if you notice these behaviors in a friend or family member?
First, discuss your observations or concerns with the person and/or other friends or family members. Make sure to listen to the person’s concerns and what might be stressful for them. It's essential to urge the person to speak to their primary care physician and/or a mental health professional. If you believe they are an immediate risk to themselves, call 911.